With the start of autumn comes the rich hues of orange, red, and yellow we’ve come to associate with the season. But almost as soon as the leaves change color, they fall from the trees and litter our yards. This leads to one of the most time-consuming (yet essential) landscaping tasks of the year: fall leaf cleanup.
Since this task can be physically demanding, many people forgo raking up their leaves each year. Others simply choose not to do it because they don’t understand how important it is for their landscape. But if you want to keep your lawn beautiful and healthy, then leaf cleanup is the most important task you can do in autumn. Let’s explore why fall cleanup is so essential and what you need to accomplish the task.
Why Do We Need Fall Leaf Cleanup?
Most people assume that fall cleanup is a task done simply to keep the yard looking nice. While raking up leaves will certainly keep your landscape maintained and pristine, fall cleanup is also essential to keep your lawn healthy.
Though summer is over, your grass is still growing. Turfgrass still needs to perform photosynthesis to stay healthy throughout autumn and store energy for next spring. For photosynthesis to work, your lawn needs access to oxygen and sunlight. Allowing a thick layer of leaves to sit atop your lawn means your grass won’t get the light and air it needs to maintain photosynthesis. Without photosynthesis, your grass will die in autumn instead of going into dormancy in the winter.
Furthermore, allowing leaf litter to stay on your lawn all autumn and winter can alter the soil’s pH and chemistry. Leaf litter and pine needles are often quite acidic. If they decompose into the ground, they will make the soil acidic as well. Turfgrass grows best in soil that has a more neutral pH. So if your soil becomes too acidic, you will either have weak and unhealthy grass or no grass at all.
Therefore, fall cleanup isn’t just a chore to ensure your yard looks as good as the neighbors’. It is an essential task if you want to have a healthy lawn in the spring.
Four Benefits Of Fall Leaf Cleanup
Since fall cleanup is so essential to the health of your yard, there are numerous benefits to doing this task every year. Below are four of the most significant benefits you’ll see by raking up your leaves as soon as possible.
- Your Landscape Will Look Great Year-Round: Spring and summer are not the only seasons in which you should maintain your yard. You need to work all year long to keep your yard looking great. Cleaning up fallen leaves is an essential task to accomplish this in the autumn. Not partaking in fall cleanup makes your yard look unkempt and messy, diminishing the beauty of your property. Furthermore, the health detriments mentioned above will lead to dead grass and bare patches that are unsightly to look at. Raking up leaf debris prevents grass from dying off, leaving a thick, beautiful lawn in the spring.
- You’ll Have Less Work In Spring: If leaves kill your grass throughout the winter, you’ll have much more work cut out for you in the spring. You will have to regrow any dead patches and work harder to restore the nutrients and pH balance of the soil. Not to mention, you’ll still have piles of leaf debris sitting around once the snow melts. If you rake up leaves in the fall, you won’t have to do all this work later on and can focus on maintaining your lawn’s healthy spring growth.
- You’ll Prevent Diseases: In addition to the health problems already mentioned, leaving leaf debris on your lawn encourages the spread of disease. Leaf debris incubates bacteria, mold, and fungal spores that damage plants and grass. Cleaning up your leaves immediately in the fall is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of these diseases.
- Insects And Pests Will Remain Under Control: Invasive and damaging insects (such as deer ticks) love to hide in leaves and debris throughout the winter. These insects eat and thrive in leaf litter but may enjoy snacking on your lawn and garden plants when spring arrives. A fall cleanup eliminates these pest havens so they don’t take over your yard.
Tools Needed For Fall Cleanup
Now that you know how vital fall cleanup is, it’s time to prep for the big task. Fall cleanup takes a lot of work and requires a few tools for success. Below are a few of the most essential tools you’ll need to commence with your fall cleanup.
- Poly Leaf Rake: The poly leaf rake is the standard fan-shaped plastic rake that pretty much everyone owns. It is the most basic tool for gathering leaves, but it is tried and true. When looking for a perfect poly leaf rake, you need a rake that is 30 to 36″ wide and has a good, sturdy wooden handle. Though buying a wider rake (especially if you have a large yard) may be tempting, bigger isn’t always better in this situation. A rake that is wider than 36″ will not be able to gather the debris between your shrubs and around your flower beds.
- Tarp: Using a polypropylene tarp is much more convenient than gathering all your leaves into a million plastic trash bags. With a tarp, you can just rake the leaves onto it and then drag the tarp to the curb or dump. The optimal size for a tarp is about 10’x12′.
- Leaf Blower: Though rakes are always a great tool, leaf blowers are far more efficient. A leaf blower can help you clean up the leaves around your yard in a fraction of the time. While landscape companies primarily use high-efficiency two-cycle, gasoline-powered blowers to gather leaves, electric blowers have come a long way. This option is much better for the environment and perfect for any homeowner who wants to tackle fall leaf cleanup themselves.
- Yard Vacuum: Owning a yard vacuum can make gathering leaves and other yard debris much easier to manage. These vacuums condense the leaves, making it easier to remove them from the property. You’ll likely see landscape companies utilize large vacuum units for fall cleanup projects, but homeowners can get by with a small yard vacuum. Once the leaves are ground up in the yard vacuum, they’ll decompose quickly in your compost pile. Or, even better, they make great mulch!
Essential Steps During Fall Cleanup
Now that you have your tools ready, it’s time to tackle those leaves. Below are the essential steps to removing fallen leaves for a perfect autumn landscape.
Step #1: Blow And Rake The Leaves Around Your Yard: Though leaves can end up in every nook and cranny of your landscape, it’s best to tackle the bulk sitting in the middle of your yard first. Use a leaf blower to gather the majority of the leaves into piles for bagging or to blow onto a tarp. Then, take a rake to gather any wet leaves or debris that the blower couldn’t pick up. If applicable, blow the leaves up to 18″ out from your property edge.
Step#2: Gather Leaves From Window Wells, And Corners Of The Building: Once you’ve cleared the bulk of your yard, it’s time to remove any leaves in the nooks and crannies of your property. This means removing leaves and debris stuck in window wells, corners, and garden beds. These areas are often forgotten or overlooked, but they need to be cleared out as well.
Step#3: Remove Leaves From The Property: Now that you have all your leaves gathered, it’s time to remove them from the property. There are a few options you can consider. Traditionally, people would bag up their leaves in trash bags and send them to the dump. However, this is not environmentally friendly. Another option is to keep the leaves for composting or use them as mulch for flower beds. But if composting isn’t an option, then you can have your city or a landscaping company remove them from the property for you.
Step#4: Mow Your Yard: When all those pesky leaves have gone, it’s time for a standard mow. Even in the fall, your grass is still growing. A nice mow will keep your landscape looking nice and tidy all the way until the winter snows arrive. Additionally, mowing before winter will prevent mold growth and disease and will shred up the few remaining leaves on your landscape.
What Do Landscaping Companies Do With All The Leaves?
When partaking in fall leaf cleanup, many homeowners opt to have someone remove their leaves from the property for them. But have you ever wondered what landscaping companies do with all those leaves?
Some landscape companies send your leaf litter to the dump for you. However, this is not as popular of an option these days because it is costly and harmful for the environment. Therefore, some companies will take them to locations (such as CSA farms) to utilize as mulch, compost, or to cover crops. Other landscaping companies will keep the leaves for themselves to make their own compost, which they use on their clients’ properties in the upcoming spring.
Contact Us For Help With Your Fall Cleanup
So as you can see, fall leaf cleanup is one of the most important tasks you can do to keep your lawn healthy throughout the year. But this can be an overwhelming task, especially if you have a large landscape to maintain. Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone. Better View Landscapes can help you with your fall cleanup this year. Check out our website to learn more about Better View Landscapes and how we can assist you with your fall cleanup this year.